Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

KNPR

Scammers Find Fertile Ground In Nevada During Pandemic

scam_sign.jpg

pixabay

Grifters, scammers, frauds—they’re nothing new to Las Vegas or Nevada, but their schemes change.

If they catch you in the right place at the right time, almost anyone can fall for them. It’s an even bigger problem now, as the pandemic has led millions more people to do their purchasing online.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission said reported consumer scams rose almost 70 percent to about 4.7 million reports. 

And in 2020, the FTC ranked Nevada as the most scammed state in the country, with 1,154 scams per 100,000 people. Delaware and Florida were second and third. 

Support comes from

"Part of that is just the transient nature of Nevada and just a little bit of what we're known for - gambling, taking a risk and then it's actually relatively easy to form a corporation here in Nevada," said Laura Tucker, deputy attorney general with the AG's Bureau of Consumer Protection. 
 
She said it is a little easier in Nevada to set up a shady business that looks legitimate, which means scammers set up shop here more often.
 
Tucker said that investigations and other actions at her office have skyrocketed over the past year.
 
"We had about 1,300 complaints in 2020 that came to the Bureau of Consumer Protection," she said, "About 1,200 of those were directly related to COVID. So that would be stuff connected to the eviction moratorium, price gouging, refund complaints."
 
She said those numbers are significantly higher than in years past.
 
Las Vegas Metro Police is also seeing an increase in the number of calls it gets about scams, particularly identity theft and fraud.
 
"Identity theft alone, we're seeing 62 victims a day in the state of Nevada," said Sgt. Beth Schmidt with Metro's Consumer Fraud department, "And when it comes to fraud, we're seeing 97 victims a day. That is a significant increase."
 
Schmidt said identity theft is up almost 200 percent between 2019 and 2020.
 
Both Schmidt and Tucker encourage people to report when they've been victims of fraud even if they're embarrassed by what happened.
 
"You're not alone - know that," Schmidt said, "They didn't target you individually. They just kind of got lucky getting you because it's a numbers game. How many people they call."  
 
Schmidt said people will get scammed but not report it in time for Metro to do anything about it.
 
One of the tactics scammers use is getting people on the phone and not letting them off. Schmidt said these are extremely skilled criminals who know how to persuade people and keep them busy so they don't have time to think about what might be happening.
 
Kim Boschee's Story:
 

Kim Boschee was driving home when she got a call that she recognized as a number from Clark County. She answered. The man on the other end told her that she had missed a summons for jury duty, and she was in a lot of trouble.

"He was very polite and kind. He said, 'Did you get the summons? Did you maybe throw it away by accident,'" Boschee explained, "I was like, 'No! I never saw it!'" 

He then told her that she had to appear at the constable's office that afternoon and that she had two charges pending against her: failure to appear, as well as contempt of court.

The man then told Boschee that she was being fined, and she needed to bring cash to the constable's office. The Las Vegas Constable's Office is no longer operating, but she didn't know that at the time.

As she asked more questions and became more upset, the man on the phone became more aggressive, and at one point, threatened to have her arrested.

"I'm thinking, 'It's 2 o'clock! My son gets home at 4 is he going to show up with carpool at the same time mom is getting arrested in the front yard?!" she said, "That's when I really started to panic!" 

Boschee texted a friend, who is a Metro officer. He advised her that it was likely a scam and to ask if she can call the man back. The man refused to give her a number she could call.

Eventually, Boschee hung up the phone but not before getting ready to go to the bank to get the money and head downtown to pay the fine.

"Thank goodness I have such good friends and people in my corner where I can contact a Metro officer immediately. I can contact my ex-husband [who is an attorney] immediately and they will help me out," she said, "I think all the people in my position that maybe don't have that."

 

Sweta Patel's Story:
 

Sweta Patel says she lost more than $250,000 to a Las Vegas man after he gained her confidence and told her he could get her a better deal on a mortgage than any other lender.

Patel was going to use the money to build a home for women with auto-immune disease. She has suffered from auto-immune diseases.

“I wanted to build a house as a retreat home for women who suffer the same conditions,” she said.

Patel said the whole thing started when she received a business card for a well-respected lender. When she met with the woman, she seemed genuine and caring.

Patel was ready to close on her house when the pandemic hit. The woman told her that the deal had fallen through because the IRS had taken back the loan program, which turned out to be false.

“She says she has a friend who she sends her clients to when a situation like this happens but it’s seldom,” Patel said.

The woman introduced Patel to a man who told her he could help her purchase the home without a loan by using her house money to buy diamonds that he would then sell at a premium in Belgium and New York.

Patel gave him $260,000, and he promised to give her back $412,000. She was told that it would take about 10 days for her to receive the money.

After 10 days, when the money didn’t arrive, she became concerned.

“The guy started giving me different excuses,” she said, “Like saying travel is banned, he can’t really do much, saying that he can’t get from one place to another.”

Patel said the man kept telling her she would get paid the next month, but that never happened.

When she asked for her money back, he claimed he couldn’t because he had already bought the diamonds, but he never showed her the diamonds.

Patel said the man was able to gain her trust by being open to her.

“It seemed like he was transparent, but he was very smooth,” she said.

Patel said that financially she is a “black hole.” She tried to get help from several different places. Now, Las Vegas Metro Police are investigating the case.

 
 
10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud from the Federal Trade Commission

 

Spot imposters:

Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government officiala family membera charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email. 

Do online searches:

Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

Don’t believe your caller ID:

Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

Don’t pay upfront for a promise:

Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear. 

Consider how you pay:

Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

Talk to someone:

Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.

Hang up on robocalls:

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

Be skeptical about free trial offers:

Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.

Don’t deposit a check and wire money back:

By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

RESOURCES:

 

Contact the Attorney General

Nevada Fight Fraud

Consumer Protection Hotline 

Hotline in Nevada (702) 486-3132
Toll-Free (888-434-9989)
 

Advice from Nevada Consumer Affairs:

If you suspect a scam:

  • Hang up the phone
  • Shred the mail solicitation
  • Don't open the door if you don't know who it is
  • Delete the email
  • Terminate your visit to the website

Better Business Bureau

Consumer Financial Protect Bureau

Scam Alerts - Federal Trade Commission

Scam, Fraud Alerts - AARP

 

 

Guests

Laura Tucker, deputy attorney general, Bureau of Consumer Protection; Sgt. Beth Schmidt, consumer fraud, Las Vegas Metro Police; Kimberly Scott Boschee, victim; Sweta Patel, Victim

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

KNPR
KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR
KNPR's State of Nevada